Grand Designs UK: Young, rich and obsessed, but he gets his multi-million dollar house


REVIEW: You know you’re going for a ride grand designs when the first glimpse you get of an owner shows him revving a bright red Ferrari in a garage full of expensive engines.

And the first words you hear from him are, “I’m obsessed with cars.” It’s almost as good as hearing that grand designs the theme again after a hiatus of almost a year. And it gets even better – we’re told Joe is only 33.

This guy has the engines, and now he wants a “state-of-the-art sculptural home” that will also be focused on “performance, design, engineering.” Yeah. Grand Designs UK is back with a bang.

Grand Designs UK presenter Kevin McCloud calls this huge


UK Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud calls this massive ‘exploded’ house an alien ark, spaceship, temple, monument, Tate Exeter and Superman’s Crystal Fortress.

Architectural designer Mick O’Connor also has big ideas. He loves the Dartmoor landscape, described by presenter Kevin McCloud as an “ancient landscape famed for its tors – granite outcrops that have been slowly carved by the elements over millions of years”.

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And O’Connor has designed one of the most outrageous sculptural homes we’ve ever seen on this show, inspired by these tors – they call it the Hux Shard, and he has his own website.

McCloud is pictured with Claire and Joe at the $5.<a class=1 million Hux Shard reveal.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

Malgosia Czarniecka/CHANNEL 4

McCloud is pictured with Claire and Joe at the $5.1 million Hux Shard reveal.

“We’re going to get one of the best homes on the planet here,” says Joe, husband to Claire and father to Evan, Jasmine and baby Rory who arrives before construction begins. Claire isn’t as ambitious as Joe – she just wants to “keep everyone happy and alive”.

We see Joe at work. He runs a financial services company that has funded some of the most amazing business developments in Exeter, so he knows his stuff. In fact, McCloud says Joe’s work helped reshape the face of an entire city. Not bad for 33.

But back to this house. Joe says the new house will be a “historic building”, visible from the valley below, “a sculpture in the landscape”.

The single storey house is over 70m long and 7m high.

Malgosia Czarniecka/CHANNEL 4

The single storey house is over 70m long and 7m high.

It will be a glued-laminated timber frame house more than 70m long, with solar panels. And it will stretch more than 7m into the sky, with 34 structures or sculptural wood shards to be clad in 1,350 square meters of zinc with glazed openings in between. These will be constructed off-site.

The project is amazing. McCloud thinks it looks like Superman’s Crystal Fortress. We think it looks brilliant.

“Will it be more of an ‘epic statement’ than at home?” More money than common sense? McCloud asks. May be. And the cost? Joe says £835,000 (NZ$1.7m), which seems ridiculously cheap by New Zealand standards (and so it turns out).

The technical design proves problematic by delaying the start date by six months (first hurdle). It is an exposed site, and structural engineer Phil Thorpe says the shards will act like sails, catching the wind. The budget now stands at over £1 million.

They begin construction with the garage, which project manager Phil Saunders says is as big as a three-bedroom bungalow. It’s like a house trial, and it’s going well.

Prefabrication fails

But the house itself does not start well. Pre-drilled timbers swell in moisture and parts built to millimeter tolerances do not line up. Joe isn’t worried at all: “It’s still fine.”

But it’s not, and that’s why grand designs pick up the TV. The whole house must be handcrafted on site, in the traditional way. Labor alone costs £20,000 per week.

As McCloud notes, it looks like a temple is being built. “It’s big,” confirms Claire. “We inhabit a sculpture – that’s the official line, but it has to be practical for a family…it’s our home at the end of the day, rather than a sculpture.”

Joe even admits that the size of the building surprised him: “It’s a little crazy.” He is right. The house is actually far too big to be very practical. But it looks good. And let’s face it. It will look good in the portfolio of any company that worked on it, except perhaps the first batch of glaziers.

The glaziers are gone

Construction costs are accelerating. The zinc coating costs over £500,000. And there are no window frames. The glass is supported by the framework of the building, but after several weeks of hard work, the glaziers left. And the team is looking for a new crew.

Joe has enough to worry about with his work plans and doesn’t need to. And to top it off, there is a Covid containment. The project may be abandoned.

But it comes back to action, and four years after plans began, McCloud is back for the reveal, eating ice cream (to prove what Devon is).

The interior is smooth and tranquil - even the NZ$250,000 <a class=kitchen is an exercise in minimalism.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>


The interior is smooth and tranquil – even the NZ$250,000 kitchen is an exercise in minimalism.

And yes, the spaceship has landed. “Damn shards of glass,” McCloud is gobsmacked (dropping the ice cream is a fun touch). And it’s the size, as much as the shards that amaze.

The huge front door is in keeping with the gigantic museum-like exterior (McCloud calls it the Tate Exeter). And inside, it’s quiet, very simply decorated and bathed in light. Wonderful.

It looks like a big party house – you could absorb a few hundred people in the living room without it being a squash. And it’s a very smart home, of course. The latest tech features everywhere.

“It’s a kitchen that comes from another universe,” admits Joe.

Kitchen expenses are NZ$250,000

McCloud is stunned that the kitchen costs £125,000 (NZ$255,000). We’ve featured kitchens here in New Zealand that cost over $350,000, but the designers didn’t want the amounts published. Expensive kitchens aren’t that rare, Kevin. Neither do Dekton worktops. Or maybe they’re in the UK. He seems amazed by a large induction hob and an automated extractor hood in the worktop. (You can see the inside in the tweet below)

We’re glad he asked Claire if she thinks the cost is justifiable. She hesitates and says, “That sounds amazing; it’s an expensive kitchen. But you can’t buy this on the main street. It must be a bespoke kitchen. It is a focal point of our house.

There is a large gym and games room in the house, as well as four en-suite bedrooms, amazing LED lighting in the hall (long enough for runs, bikes and scooters) and views from all corners.

McCloud adores it, even though he calls it “a monument”. Mick O’Connell is coming back, and he’s also happy with how everything went, inside and out. Claire nailed the inside and he’s thrilled.

And what about the total cost of this project? Well, £835,000 has gone up to £2.5m (NZ$5.1m), which still seems like a reasonable price for what they’re getting. Joe hasn’t even had to sell a car and he seems pretty relaxed. Which means hopefully he won’t be releasing it anytime soon.

“I’m completely and utterly satisfied,” he says. “It’s exactly what I hoped it would be.”

And we have to say that’s how we feel about the return of Grand Designs UK. It will be hard to top this one.

Grand Designs UK airs on TVNZ1 on Sundays at 8.30pm and on TVNZ OnDemand.


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